Xi: China wants to expand sprawling infrastructure project

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President Xi Jinping has called for more countries to join China’s sprawling infrastructure-building initiative after he promised to improve standards in response to complaints about debt and other problems.

Speaking at a gathering of leaders to celebrate his signature project, Xi tried Saturday to dispel complaints the Belt and Road Initiative does too little for developing countries that have borrowed from Beijing to build ports, railways and other facilities.

Xi says his government wants to “deliver benefits to all.”

The number of governments that have signed agreements to support Belt and Road has steadily risen despite opposition from the United States and other governments that worry Beijing is using the initiative to increase its strategic influence.

Xi says, “We need to encourage the full participation of more countries and companies.”

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Developing countries welcome the initiative launched in 2013, but some governments are struggling to repay Chinese loans. That has fueled complaints about a possible “debt trap.” Critics also complain too little work goes to local companies, too little financing and other information is disclosed and Belt and Road might lead to corruption or environmental damage.

The United States, Russia, Japan and India worry Beijing is eroding their strategic influence by building a political and trade network centered on China, the second-largest global economy.

Despite that, Putin said on Friday that Belt and Road fits with Moscow’s initiative to develop a common market with three of its neighbors.

Beijing says the number of governments that have signed agreements to support Belt and Road has risen to 115 from 65. Beijing scored a diplomatic coup in March when Italy, a member of the Group of Seven major economies, signed on.

The Chinese president repeated his promise to adopt global standards for project development, purchasing and operations.

“We welcome the participation of multilateral and international financial institutions in Belt and Road investment and financing, and we encourage third market cooperation,” said Xi. “With involvement of multiple stake holders we can surely deliver benefits to all.”